By Safie M. Gonzalez

Brands of pure Cuban coffee.

HAVANA TIMES – Coffee is much more than a drink to help us Cubans kick start off the day. It’s an excuse to meet with someone, a social get together. If somebody comes to visit you at home, the tradition is to offer them a steaming hot cup of coffee.

To us there’s nothing like pure Cuban coffee. However, unfortunately, most Cubans cannot enjoy this coffee, it’s simply out of our reach. This might be something many of you did not know.

Cuban coffee enjoys international fame. Countries like Japan and France take delight in our black nectar. In today’s Cuba, 90% of the coffee grown is in the provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago, Granma and Holgun. Santiago is the leading producer. In the center of the island Sancti Spíritus, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara account for 7%, while in the west, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa produce 3%.

The coffee tree was introduced by Jose Antonio Gelabert in the 18th century. Later, French colonialists imported their own production methods. When the Cuban Revolution took place in 1959, Cuba was an important exporter of coffee.  

But in the early 1960s, the Cuban coffee industry took a huge dive after nationalization and the US trade embargo, which is perhaps why many Western countries haven’t had the privilege of enjoying a delicious cup of Cuban coffee.

Cubita, Serrano, Regil, Arriero, Turquino and more recently Guantanamera, are some of the marketing brands of Cuban coffee, sold to the public at US dollar equivalent prices but in our two local currencies.  

The coffee / chickpea blend
The Coffee mixed with ground chickpeas that most Cubans are able to drink. It’s sold in small quantities on the ration booklet.

Hola is a coffee sold in bodega stores, via the ration booklet. This coffee is mixed with ground chickpeas. Over time, the percentage of chickpeas has increased and sometime, this Hola coffee neither smells or tastes like coffee.

Always making magic with thin air, Cubans buy a packet of pure coffee (when they can) and mix it with Hola. This way, they are able to make it last longer and give it a little more aroma and flavor of a fine cup of Cuban coffee.

With this global crisis because of the pandemic, all kinds of coffee have disappeared from “normal” stores. Now you can only find it in the new dollar stores. Anyone unable to buy it will have to make do with the Hola packet named after a greeting. However, it is more than a greeting, it’s a farewell to our true coffee.

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Safie M. Gonzalez

I was born in the 80's. I love nature and animals, as well as my country. I admire the sacrifice of a people. I consider myself a simple and honest person, therefore I detest injustices. I have a taste for the arts in general, but especially for literature, photography, and cinema. I believe in the power of the word and in the ability of the human being to change the world.

8 thoughts on “We Love Our Coffee, Yet It’s Pretty Much Banned

  • Just in case any reader is confused by Stephens description of Tim Horton’s Canadian coffee. Horton’s a US owned company purchases all its coffee from other countries, Canada does not produce a single bean. I can readily accept that Stephen and indeed many others who visit Tim Horton’s for coffee, are not coffee connoisseurs, the same applies to those who line up in their cars to purchase McCafe from McDonald’s, another US company with outlets all over Canada – and much of the planet – and a well known source of litter. A third US company, Starbucks, sells a slightly better quality, but charges heavily. All the coffees concerned are imported, then roasted. Italian coffees are also imports. Roasting is the real art ! Cubita, Serrano and other Cuban coffees are both grown and roasted in Cuba.

  • Well I can just walk into a store in Canada and buy unlimited quantities of Cubita coffee – in either 460 or 920gm black packets! The 460gm packets cost $10.20 Canadian ($7.50 US) and the 960 packs $19.99 Canadian. But when at home in Cuba it is a different story !

    But why would the Castro regime care whether Cubans can buy coffee ?

  • First, let me say, I love Cuban coffee. Along with my Cuban cigars, I could be accused of bordering on smuggling these products into the US each time I return from a trip to Cuba. That said, not accounting for personal preference, Cuban coffee is NOT considered by coffee aficionados as being among the best tasting. Like Cuban cigars, at least part of the hype is owed to Cuban coffee’s limited availability. Like nearly everything else in Cuba, it’s limited availability is because of poor resource management. That said, I can also be accused of scheduling my return visits to Cuba to coincide with when I expect to run out of Cuban coffee and cigars so, yes, I am a fan. But the truth? Cuban coffee is no big deal. By the way, in an earlier comment, the coffeemaker most Cubans use to make their stovetop coffee was described as a “Cuban” coffee pot. It’s not Cuban. It’s Italian.

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